Germany follows civil law (or Roman law) procedures and organization, which differ substantially from American and British common law. Judges play a more activist role, and attorneys a lesser one, than in an American courtroom. In a typical German criminal trial, a panel of judges hears the case. The panel includes the investigating judge, who conducts a prior investigation of the facts of the case and decides if it should be tried at all. The states’ ministries of justice appoint and promote most judges.
German courts at the state level form separate hierarchies depending on the kind of law that they administer: civil, criminal, administrative, social insurance, financial, or labor law. Each state system is headed by a high court, and there is one federal court for each of these specialties.
Germany also maintains a separate, non-Roman law system of constitutional courts, which interpret their respective state constitutions and the Basic Law. The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is the most important.
A number of political parties are represented in the Bundestag. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) is Germany’s oldest party. Founded in 1875, the SPD has developed from a Marxist socialist workers’ party into a broadly based people’s party, which now also emphasizes Christianity and humanism. The SPD has often allied itself with Germany’s Green Party, which has gradually gained strength since it first won representation in the Bundestag in 1983. The major conservative party is the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is closely allied with the Christian Social Union (CSU) of Bavaria.
The CDU/CSU has also formed an alliance in the past with the much smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP). This coalition brought about German unification in 1989 and 1990 against considerable opposition. The CDU and the CSU were both established in 1945. The FDP, founded in 1948, is a party of traditional liberals and libertarians.
Also represented in the Bundestag is the Left Party. The Left Party is a successor to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which in turn succeeded the state-run Communist Party of East Germany. Many Left voters are former East Germans. Others belong to a breakaway faction from the SPD.Dozens of other parties run candidates in every election but have not yet managed to gain representation in the Bundestag. Some have won seats in state legislatures. Among them are radical right groups. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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